Based on the practical experience in design and operation of three full-scale membrane bioreactors (MBR) for municipal wastewater treatment that were commissioned since 1999, an overview on the different design concepts that were applied to the three MBR plants is given. The investment costs and the energy consumption of the MBRs and conventional activated sludge (CAS) plants (with and without tertiary treatment) in the Erft river region are compared. It is found that the specific investment costs of the MBR plants are lower than those of comparable CAS with tertiary treatment. A comparison of the specific energy demand of MBRs and conventional WWTPs is given. The structure of the MBRs actual operational costs is analysed. It can be seen that energy consumption is only responsible for one quarter to one third of all operational expenses. Based on a rough design and empirical cost data, a cost comparison of a full-scale MBR and a CAS is carried out. In this example the CAS employs a sand filtration and a disinfection in order to achieve comparable effluent quality. The influence of membrane lifetime on life cycle cost is assessed.

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